Impact of Legalized Marijuana on College Applications Revealed in Recent Study

In a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Contemporary Economic Policy, researchers shed light on a fascinating trend: states where recreational marijuana is legal are experiencing notable increases in college applications, attracting even elite students.

Employing a rigorous two-way fixed effects difference-in-differences model, the study delved into the effects of local recreational marijuana (RMJ) policy changes on college applications. The findings were striking, revealing that the three largest state public schools witnessed an average surge of nearly 54% in applications.

Currently, recreational cannabis enjoys legal status for adults in 24 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in several U.S. territories. This widespread legalization trend, as reported by the Pew Research Center, has led to over half of Americans residing in states where both recreational and medical marijuana are legal.

Moreover, the accessibility of cannabis dispensaries is remarkably high, with approximately 79% of Americans living in counties that house at least one. This surge in accessibility is accompanied by shifting attitudes towards marijuana, with a significant majority of Americans expressing support for its legalization, whether for medical use only or for both medical and recreational purposes.

The study also explored how this wave of legalization influences college admissions. Contrary to expectations, the increase in applications doesn’t seem to be driven solely by low-ability students. Both first and third quartiles of admitted student composite SAT scores to major public schools experienced a notable increase, indicating a broad-based phenomenon rather than a niche effect.

Furthermore, analysis conducted by PsyPost revealed that in the year following the legalization of recreational marijuana in a state, colleges within that state experienced a significant increase in applications compared to those in non-legalized states.

Christopher Blake, one of the authors of the study, highlighted the potential benefits for institutions of higher learning in states where marijuana is legalized. A larger and higher-achieving applicant pool could enhance a school’s academic profile, mirroring the effects seen when schools have successful sports teams.

However, the research also acknowledges certain limitations. It remains unclear why prospective freshmen, who are often underage, might base their application decisions on the availability of recreational marijuana. Factors such as perception, media coverage, or broader public policies could play a role.

Additionally, the study raises questions about the extent to which out-of-state students may be driving the surge in applications in legalized states. Whether legalization prompts students from other states to apply to colleges in legalized states at higher rates or encourages in-state students to prefer local institutions remains an area for further investigation.

In essence, the study underscores the intricate interplay between public policies, societal attitudes, and higher education dynamics, providing valuable insights into the evolving landscape of college admissions in the era of legalized marijuana.


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment